So everyone had their thing they picked up in quarantine, Fire dancing, unicycling, cross-stitching. Everyone just got a little weird. While I can say I never posted a video of me doing ten pushups on Instagram, I'm unsure what has been more harmful to my sociability- grad school, quarantine, or having to do both at the same time.
I first started foraging last year when I moved to Denver to start grad school. I was unsettled, deeply anxious, and all kinds of emotional over the chaos that was 2020, being a teacher in 2020, ending said teaching career, moving to a new city to start school, and having 3 friends in said new city. I had no idea how to be myself, especially when myself mainly felt really tiresome.
Then one day my roommate (who was one of my 3 friends) came home (to our slightly dingy on campus apartment) and excitedly reported finding wild plums. To a girl who was desperate to not lose herself while really wanting to forget herself, wild fruit may as well have been crack cocaine. Because I was hooked.
Foraging became an act of remembrance to joy, myself, and the outdoors. Was foraging also a coping mechanism for a very sad Laura? 1,000%. I made so much jam, I decided to sell it ya'll. And as ridiculous as it initially was, at the same time, it's tender to me to think the Earth supplied a source of loving kindness when it felt like life was anything but kind. The week my grandma died, I discovered pink peppercorns, wild rosemary, strawberry guava, and eastern cherries. I made hibiscus mint tea and dried rose petals and lemons from her garden in California. Literally walking out my back door in Colorado to discover wild apples, prickly pears, and ELDERBERRIES cultivated delight in having eyes to see, ears to hear, and a posture of curiosity and wonder. In a year when my brain felt absolutely out of my control, it also learned new recipes, cultivated new skills, and had a reprieve of joy. Learning about wild foods, how to identify them, and how to cook them was an unexpected and gracious gift.
Now, one year later and I'm just as into it. This fall my goal was not just to can and jam. But also to explore and bake creative new recipes as well. So without further adieu, here are 2021's fall foraging recipes- the good, the bad, and the bland, all with hand-picked fruit from the good ol' Colorado wild.
1) Thimble berry and peach sorbet - This was one of my FAVORITE recipes. Given, I didn't forage the peaches. But they were Colorado grown down in Palisade. For the berries, I used
a combination of wild raspberries, thimbleberries, and a couple goose and watermelon berries!
2) Thimble berry and rhubarb pie - Truly, we had little rhyme or rhythm on this recipe. I am not a master pie baker. But my friend is. We made the filling by cooking down the thimble berries and rhubarb in sugar and looked up a pie crust recipe. I'm told the key to a good pie crust is cold butter. You heard it here first, people.
3) Chocolate cake with choke cherry jam and maple icing - Nothing fancy here. We went to Safeway and got a Betty Crocker boxed German Chocolate cake. BUT there are ways to fancify your average boxed cake. Use coffee instead of water, butter instead of oil, and an extra egg! See the below recipe for the chokecherry jam to fill that baby with and you're golden!
4) Apple Bread - Full disclosure, we should have used more apples. I also think cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves would have been a more colorful use of spices than the single pumpkin pie spice the recipe calls for.
5) Plum Torte- I'm low key obsessed with wild plums. They are the closest thing to candy fruit has ever tasted. Apparently this torte recipe we made was so popular in the NY Times they posted it annual in the fall. The first time they didn't, the public threw a fit and demanded it back.
6) Apple Jam - This was a big point of jamming improvement. Last year, I totally overcooked and carmelized my jam. It was bad, people. This year, a whole new delicious ball game!
7) Apple Cheddar Beer Soup - This was another favorite. All apples were foraged by the river. The recipe was a little strong on the apple cider bite, so we added in more cheese, naturally.
While I can report the texture of these scones was great, a scoop of sugar would have added a bit more sweetness. This recipe had good intention with little flavor.
9) Elderberry shrub - An elderberry shrub was high-key my favorite thing I made because mix in some ginger beer and whiskey, and whoo-baby! You got yourself a great drink.
10) Elderberry syrup
Truthfully, I wasn't a fan of this recipe. Again, I would have switched the honey to sugar to take out the bite of the berries just a little.
NANKING CHERRIES, PEOPLE?! This is an ornamental lawn shrub with DELICIOUS sweet cherries! I picked some of those, mixed them with choke cherries growing on a tree right next to it, and voila! Nanking choke cherry jam.
12) Saskatoon berry muffins- This was another new foraging find this fall! Saskatoon berries are also known as service berries. I had heard their reputation was meh for the flavor situation. AND THEN, I looked up recipes and the internet is THRIVING with them! Apparently, saskatoon berries were pioneers' favorite fruit to use because they're so plentiful. Think of like a seedy blueberry and you've got a saskatoon berry. My mama and I picked some and made some muffins! The one addition I'd make to this recipe is adding vanilla.
13) Spiced plum and apple jam - unsure if this is technically the recipe I used. But what I do
know is somehow I missed the direction to boil the apples to soften before adding in the jamming spices, which makes a difference. Make sure to soften the apples!
14) Thimble berry jam - This is one of my favorite jams! It's light, bright, and reminiscent of raspberry. Squeeze in some lemon for an extra zest and to help the canning process. My general rule of thumb of jam recipes is however many cups of fruit you have, add in half as many cups of sugar. Boil it down, throw in some lemon, sometimes pectin, and can it, baby!
15) Apple Butter - this is one of the easiest recipes! The crock pot is your friend. The apple butter is delicious.
Thanks for staying and reading. Foraging's not for everyone, but joy is. Wherever you've found yourself in this season of life, I hope joy is finding you too, friend.
Please note. I am not a foraging professional.
To follow some professional foragers with delicious recipes, and tips and tricks on recognition, check out:
Forage Colorado: https://www.instagram.com/foragecolorado/
Black Forager: https://www.instagram.com/blackforager/
Forager Chef: https://www.instagram.com/foragerchef/